Recently National Public Radio ran a program on California’s state psychiatric hospitals. There has reportedly been an enormous increase in patient violence in recent years, including the murder of a female employee in October 2010.
Staff are demanding that some remedial measures be undertaken. Committees are meeting; politicians are giving speeches. But the violence continues.
Reportedly the state is spending more than $500 per day per patient – that’s more than $180,000 per year! But the violence continues.
How did we get to this point?
Over the past 50-60 years, American psychiatrists, in collaboration with their pharmaceutical allies, promoted the idea that all unusual or disturbing behavior was caused by a mental illness. Intellectually this concept is meaningless, but it resonated in the popular consciousness, and psychiatry’s promotional efforts have been enormously successful. Perhaps too successful!
Anyone charged with a serious violent crime in the United States can play the “crazy” card, and will almost certainly be able to find a psychiatrist who will testify that his (or her) criminal activity was caused by an underlying mental illness, and that hospitalization is the correct disposition.
Much of this kind of nonsense has been written into law. In many cases judges find their hands are tied, and the individual is sent to a “hospital” for “treatment.”
The fact is that these individuals are not sick in any meaningful sense of the term. They commit acts of violence for the same reason that other people commit acts of violence – because they haven’t been adequately trained in the suppression of anger and aggression.
Our society’s solution to uncontrolled anger and aggression is prison. Now I’m not suggesting that our prisons are doing a great job in this regard. But that is what’s available – and is used widely – unless, of course, the miscreant plays the “crazy” card. Then he goes to a so-called hospital to be treated for a so-called illness. And in this context the violence continues more or less unabated.
At least in prison precautions are taken to protect staff and other inmates from violent predatory offenders. But in a “hospital” setting such measures would be seen as militating against the therapeutic milieu.
The chickens are coming home to roost. The psychiatrists took us down this road to promote their own business interests. And business is booming. $180,000 per year per “patient!”
But the violence continues – and will continue, as long as we remain mired in the inane psychiatric view of unusual or disturbing behavior. Aggressive behavior is neither an illness nor a symptom of an illness. And efforts to “treat” it as such are doomed to failure. Psychiatry’s track record in this area is extremely poor, and yet we go on throwing money at them! Maybe they’re right – perhaps we all are crazy!